“UNI-SOLAR® photo voltaic laminates (PVL) are flexible and lightweight laminates made exceptionally durable by encapsulation in UV stabilized polymers. The polymer encapsulation is partially constructed of durable ETFE, (example, Tefzel®) a high-light-transmissive polymer.”
A 11 January article from Renewable Energy Access described a solar energy installation by American Energy Technologies, Inc. on a 350,000-sq.-ft. building. United Solar Ovonic, a wholly owned subsidiary of Energy Conversion Devices, Inc. supplied the photo voltaic laminates.
Customers choose Uni-Solar, in part, for the non-reflective surface. Installers like that field installation is possible, thus there is less loss due to damage upon shipment and delivery. The laminate is lightweight and flexible; the easy Peel & Stick backing makes for easy application on smooth surfaces such as metal roofing. Architects like that the new bonding materials have a wide temperature range and are more durable. (Because there is no glass, there less risk of damage.)
With an AC generation capacity of something over 800,000 kilowatt-hours annually, the solar powered warehouse, leased from the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey by East Coast Warehouse & Distribution, exemplifies a trend in building integrated photo voltaic systems. Whereas, in 2005, thin film PV accounted for only 6% of total PV production, more recently there has been greater use of solar laminates. This would seem to be the result of improved production, along with the newer cell designs that have been announced by Japanese and American manufacturers like Sharp, United Solar, etc.
Low adoption of thin-film, silicon-based solar cells in the past was due to the relatively low conversion efficiency. Commercial developers are realizing that such systems are becoming more “economically prudent” with anticipated increases in the cost of energy from fossil fuels. Previously, alternative energy investors have considered distributed generation from thin film, photo voltaic systems to be a riskier investment than some other renewable energy development.
Today, among property management there is a growing recognition as to the value of having local generating capacity. Thus, we are seeing projections of accelerated growth in the solar energy industry. By applying the Uni-Solar PV laminates on to the galvalume, standing seam, metal roof panel, American Energy Technologies installed on the warehouse roofs more than 5,140 panels for TurtleEnergy LLC, which was the contractor responsible for integrating the energy saving solar panels into a complete, grid-tied power system and obtaining code certification.
The new CIGS panels developed by the University of Johannesburg team use a thin, flexible, “photo responsive” metal alloy coating only 5 micron thick. (Compared to a human hair at 20 micrometers, and silicon photo voltaic cells at 350 micrometers.) The developers claim that the panels have a useful life of about 20 years and an ROI within the first 1-2 years of operation because they are about 25% of the price of standard PV panels.
Solar roofed warehousing is just one example of a variety of commercial and industrial applications. On several previous occasions this blog has mentioned solar roofed parking structures. Not only do such initiatives provide companies with opportunities to help the environment, they are particularly prudent where investors can take advantage of incentives to reduce the otherwise long payback periods.
For more information about the future of solar laminates, see “The Future of Thin Film PV“.